Carboxyllic acid

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Carboxylic acids are organic compounds which contain a carboxyl group (COOH)[1].



You always name carboxylic acids from the first carbon atom on the COOH (carboxyl) group. This carbon atom is always counted as carbon number 1 regardless of how many other side chains there are in the compound. You will follow the path with most carbon atoms, starting from carbon atom 1, to obtain the systematic name of the acid; any carbon atoms not counted will be classed as side chains.

Examples of Carboxylic acids

The shortest carboxylic acid is methanoic acid and its chemical formula is HCOOH. Other examples include ethanoic acid, 2 methyl butanoic acid etc.


Primary alcohols can be oxidised through heating under reflux with potassium dichromate solution to produce carboxylic acids. Other ways of producing carboxylic acids include hydrolysing nitriles through acid or alkali hydrolysis[2].

Physical properties

Carboxylic acids have slightly higher boiling points than alcohols due to stronger hydrogen bonding.

Smaller chain carboxylic acids are relatively soluble in water. However, the bigger acids tend to be less soluble due to the hydrocarbon tails breaking hydrogen bonds between water molecules and the carboxylic acid.


  1. Jim Clark. Introducing Carboxylic Acids. 2004. [cited 03/12/17]. Available from:
  2. LibreTexts. Preparation of Carboxylic Acids. 2015. [cited 03/12/17]. Available from:

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